05/16/2012 02:30 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Nursing homes urged to prioritize abuse prevention

A task force is calling for Ontario’s long-term-care homes to make the prevention of abuse and neglect their top priority in the year ahead.

The provincial Long-Term Care Task Force on Resident Care and Safety says that the people managing and working in these homes must ensure their organizations are committed to preventing abuse, both on paper and in practice.

In a new report issued Wednesday, the task force makes a series of recommendations for the province’s long-term-care homes.

They include setting up committees at long-term-care facilities to track and respond to issues relating to resident care and safety, as well as identifying indicators of abuse, neglect and quality of life.

The same report is urging the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to help design and deploy coaching teams to improve safety and quality of care in poor-performing homes in the province.

The ministry should also work with the long-term-care industry to resolve outstanding issues related to the services available to and placement of individuals with complex care needs, the report says.

Not every facility a problem

There were more than 3,000 cases of abuse reported in the province’s nursing homes last year, though Gail Donner, the task force’s chair, said that doesn’t mean that there are problems in every facility.

“There’s not abuse and neglect everywhere in every home, in every environment,” Donner said Wednesday.

“And there are probably some environments where it’s more than in other environments, and that’s why this report is so important.”

Much of the abuse reported is committed by residents, so the industry wants specialized homes created to handle elderly residents with behavioural problems.

In cases where staff are abusive, the industry wants to make it easier to fire those individuals.

The industry-led task force that put together the report also includes representation from seniors and academics.

It collected survey responses from more than 1,900 people who live, work or otherwise have interaction with long-term-care facilities in Ontario.

The full report can be viewed online on the task force’s website.